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PNG confirms 9th COVID-19 case

EVERYONE in Papua New Guinea has a responsibility to ensure coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19 does not spread throughout the country, medical experts said following the announcement on Saturday of the 9th COVID-19 case.

The call came from Acting Health Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala and Director for Central Public Health Laboratory Dr Evelyn Lavu yesterday when they made the announcement of the 9th case of COVID-19.

The announcement comes 59 days after the last COVID-19 case in PNG was announced. The 9th person is a 44-year-old foreign resident who has been living and working in Port Moresby for the last four months.

Both Acting Secretary Dr Dakulala and Dr Lavu said there is no doubt that this new case is positive because it was confirmed three times, using both GeneXpert which was done in the country and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests which were done both in the country and in Brisbane, Australia.

“Social distancing is not a joke. Wearing a mask where it is needed and…within the setting you are working is not a joke. If you are coughing and have flu like symptoms like fever, stay at home and call the 1800200 toll number so that we can see how we can help,’’ said Dr Dakulala.

He commended the 9th patient for calling the toll free number on 9th of June to report his symptoms. He said a rapid response team was sent to him and immediately placed him under surveillance and monitored his condition. After a week the patient did not show signs of improvement and experienced heightened flu-like symptoms including fever, cough and sore throat.

Dr Dakulala said PNG’s new case of COVID-19 is recovering and has followed all the correct advice of self-isolating since feeling unwell in early June.

He said preparations are underway to repatriate him to his home country, but he is doing well.

Dr Dakulala said since the identification of the patient, the rapid response team has initiated contact tracing, identifying the places he may have been and people he had interacted with and so far eight individuals were identified and are in quarantine.

“There are more contacts that we are trying to reach at present. Early investigations suggest that the case acquired infection in Port Moresby. But the health teams are considering all possible scenarios based on the contact tracing.

“The identification of this case highlights that the risk of COVID-19 remains very high in Papua New Guinea. This case also reminds us all to continue to be vigilant,’’ Dr Dakulala said.

Dr Lavu also called upon the public to be vigilant and practice preventive measures to ensure that the infection is not spread, and further reminded citizens that PNG hospitals are not well resourced so “people need to play their part" to prevent infection and spread.

“Like this gentleman, he stayed at home and called for help,’’ Dr Lavu said.

Secretary Dr Dakulala highlighted that since January each of the 22 provinces have been scaling up preparedness for COVID-19.

“We have trained staff, put in isolation facilities and received personal protective equipment and other supplies. However, one of the big risks is complacency and fatigue and so I urge everyone not to let down their guards and continue to be vigilant,” Dr Dakulala said.

Apart from enhancing surveillance, he said there is a need to implement public health measures which includes preparing the people for “Niupela Pasin” or the “new normal”.

“This would involve getting rid of our old ways of doing things and replacing them with new behaviours and actions to reduce risks of getting infection,” Dr Dakulala said.

Meanwhile in response to the latest case of COVID-19 Commissioner of Police and Controller David Manning issued Control Measure 8 to further mitigate the spread of the virus.

The measure, issued under the National Pandemic Act 2020, does not allow any person to board an aircraft bound for PNG unless they have been tested for COVID-19 within a 14-day period prior to boarding an aircraft and have returned a result indicating they do not have detectable levels of COVID-19.

Further, under this measure only Real Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests shall be accepted.

The Controller may in writing exempt a person from the requirement. These measures shall not apply to persons whom the Controller has approved to enter Papua New Guinea on or prior to 20 June.

A person or organisation that allows a person to board an aircraft bound for PNG in breach of these measures shall be deemed to have committed an offence under the National Pandemic Act 2020.

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